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No, the WNBA All-Star Game shouldn't overlap with NBA Summer League

No, the WNBA All-Star Game shouldn't overlap with NBA Summer League

As we get further out from the WNBA All-Star festivities that were held in Chicago, I find myself a little annoyed with how things were handled. I personally had a good time, but there were enough issues in terms of fan accessibility that left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. There's room for better, and we should all strive and root for better.

In the context of striving for better, there's been plenty of conversation around how The W can improve its weekend festivities. Announcing the actual participants of the Skills Challenge and Three-Point Shootout earlier would help; inviting players that aren't already planning to be there — there's no reason Sparks guard Lexie Brown, shooting 44.2% from three on 4.0 attempts per game, shouldn't have been in the contest — would also be nice!

The conversation has gone bigger-picture now. A common ask gaining more steam publicly: Hosting All-Star weekend in Las Vegas — home of the Las Vegas Aces — while overlapping with Summer League play.

There were some pretty big co-signers on that suggestion from Arash Markazi. He got an "I like this take" response from New York Liberty star Sabrina Ionescu. Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James quote tweeted with "Such a great idea!!!!!!" to his near-52 million followers. Aces star Kelsey Plum was asked about the idea during a segment on ESPN's "NBA Today" on Friday, and she offered her support.

"I'm a little bit biased, obviously, because I'm in Vegas," Plum begins. "But I think it would be a tremendous idea."

"We understand that summer and basketball is Las Vegas. We have Summer League; there are a bunch of AAU tournaments for boys and girls. Coaches meet up there. A lot of teams do training camp out there. So I think, why not have a basketball mecca in Vegas every summer, highlighting the best female athletes in the world? I can't think of a better opportunity, and I know the Aces — specifically [owner] Mark Davis — would support that heavily."

The following day, the WNBPA Twitter account shared its support of Plum's statement with a quote-tweet of their own.

While I truly understand the sentiment, it's hard for me to get past the optics of using All-Star weekend as an appetizer for Summer League.

Rolling with the "opening weekend" idea from Markazi, that would fall within the window of top prospects playing. We normally see the lottery picks play for the first two games, sometimes three games, before getting shut down. Would the NBA be willing to schedule the "marquee matchups" later in the evening to clear out blocks for those events?

Even if that's doable, again, think of what that message is. For a league still trying to improve its reputation, having the NBA say, "Let's make sure the Keegan Murray-Chet Holmgren matchup is at 7 p.m. Pacific time so The W has room to showcase literal legends of the sport" just seems... off to me.

That's no disrespect to any of the NBA's top five picks; they just don't, or shouldn't, hold more weight than Sylvia Fowles, Sue Bird and potentially Candace Parker playing in their last All-Star games. They don't hold more weight than those three, period.

What the move-things-to-Vegas-during-Summer-League idea feels like, to me, is a way to make things easier on media. That's not inherently a bad thing; sports don't grow at their maximum capacity without (good) media coverage, and that coverage isn't done well without access. But in media, and honestly in life, people make time and put in effort for the things they care about. 

Personally, I went to Vegas for the opening games for Summer League, flew to Chicago for All-Star festivities, then came back to Vegas for more SL coverage. That's a blessing and an opportunity I don't take lightly, of course; but ultimately, I wanted to do that.

I'm both a Summer League Sicko and someone who loves The W, so I made it a priority to cover both. I also wasn't the only media member to attend both All-Star and Summer League festivities. And I surely wasn't the only media member to cover Summer League things and another basketball event. 

There was a media presence at the Drew League this weekend. When LeBron and DeMar DeRozan pop on the scene and play on the same team, people want to see that — and rightfully so! Once word started circulating that they'd be in attendance, the NBA even accomodated fans by providing a stream to watch through the NBA app.

To be clear: There is nothing at all wrong with that. But it also serves as (further) proof that Summer League isn't some unsolvable impediment if basketball coverage is wanted (or needed) elsewhere.

Heck, the "beauty" of Summer League — if you want to call it that — is that there are 11 days of hoops! You can miss a day or two and still get your fix in. And unlike The W sometimes (love y'all, but please), Summer League games are pretty easy to find on TV.

I'm not opposed to festivities being moved to Vegas in a vacuum. It's a great host city, and 2019's All-Star festivities were well-received by all accounts. I just don't think overlap is the answer. If you really want to use The W as an opener, set the stage for them completely. Maintain the Saturday-Sunday combo for All-Star festivities (July 9 and 10 in this case), then kick off Summer League on the 11th.

That gives them the platform they deserve, while also allowing media and fans alike to get into Vegas during the weekend. As many visiting media members will tell you, there's a three-, maybe four-day max on a Vegas trip before losing your mind, melting or both. Flying in on Friday and leaving out on Monday or Tuesday would give you room to cover All-Star weekend while also catching the lottery picks before they're shut down.

When we're having these discussions of improving the WNBA, in any aspect, I want us to be sure that we're prioritizing the league itself. It's felt too much like people are looking for ways to keep the WNBA from inconveniencing them. I don't think that's fair to anyone involved. 

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